I know that things happen for a reason and that I have to make the most out of every situation. I try to step back and find the positive.
Originally published in The Black Page – August 2009
As a drummer it is often a prerequisite to wear two, three, even four different hats, metaphorically speaking. For, like the fashion conscious, a drummer must also adhere to style—but of the drumming sort. Glendale, California’s own Alicia Warrington is proving that not only can she wear the hats, she can fit the shoes that go with, metaphorically speaking.
Alicia you are very driven and practical in your approach to your musical career. Where do you feel you developed those qualities?
I was never told that I couldn’t do something I really wanted in life. I wasn’t brought up thinking that there was a limit to success and in fulfilling goals and dreams. I’ve always been encouraged and supported in my career decisions. No – isn’t a final answer for me.
You play with various pop acts but at one point were the singer behind a Death Metal band and you grew up grooving to stuff like like Dokken, Motley Crue etc. How did you end up in a pop vein when your roots are a little edgier?
I grew up with my grandparents playing Polka music in the house, my mom always had the R&B and classic rock (Anita Baker to The Beatles), my sister was getting Ozzy tapes banned from our house and my uncle was pushing Queensryche, Dokken and Quiet Riot at me. You see what I’m saying? I love MUSIC. Period. If it’s good, I’m going to listen to it, I’m going to play it and I’m going to be influenced by it – in one way or another. I grew up listening to absolutely everything and today, you will find [just that] in my collection. I like everything from En Vogue to Lamb Of God.
Tell me about your folks. How did they pay the bills and what is the most interesting thing about them?
I am my mom’s biggest fan. She is a wonderful, wonderful, woman who has been nothing but supportive of anything I’ve ever wanted to do in life. I come from a single-parent family and my mom did an absolutely amazing job at raising me and my older sister. She worked long, hard hours in Michigan’s struggling auto industry, to make sure that her kids were well taken care of. She bought me my first guitar and two drum sets, turned a bedroom into a band rehearsal space for me, paid for guitar lessons, went to every show that I did in the area. I’m not going to tell you the most interesting thing about her, because then you’ll know too much about my mom.
What do you use for motivation when you are going through a learning process?
My higher power is always my biggest motivation. I know that things happen for a reason and that I have to make the most out of every situation. I try to step back and find the positive.
What is generally the first thought on your mind when you get up?
Coffee. I usually wake up with ideas and being ready to go and make the most of my day. Lately, I’ve been in the process of recording so, as soon as I wake up I’m thinking about something I want to change or approach differently in whatever I recorded the day before.
How do you think a drummer is influenced in their choice of stick? What do you feel comfortable with and why?
I have tested many brands and started off using sticks from a company that would break all of the time. I wasn’t completely happy until I started using Vic Firth… I stopped searching after that. Choosing brands is completely personal preference. In choosing a stick, you want to get the best playing experience as possible. You want something that will project the sound you want, in addition to feeling right in your hands (the right weight, length, tip, etc). I am most comfortable with the Vic Firth 3A wood tip – for faster, light Rock and the American Classic Rocks for full, heavier sounds.
In all the years you have been interviewed what is the one question you wish you had been asked?
Can you take us through any specific techniques and practice routines that really had an impact on the type of player you are today?
I taught myself drums (when I was around 11 yrs old) by watching and listening to other drummers. My Uncle Kevin had a huge kit in his basement. It was set up on a platform with lights, fog machines, huge speakers and I would just put on a tape and play along to what I heard. I would play songs over and over again, until I thought it sounded exactly like what I was hearing on the recording. I felt like a rock star under the lights, with the music blasting (laughs).
I’ve been blessed with being able to play with artists of different genres and have had to learn their music in short periods of time. That way of practicing when I was younger has helped me be able to adapt to different styles quicker and to pick up drum parts easily on recordings.
Today, I still implement that into my practicing, but these days, I mostly play along to a click track with the music in my head. I also work on different exercises, patterns and fills repeatedly. I like to check out other drummers live and on video for more inspiration.
How did you land the gig with Kelly Osbourne?
That was my first professional drumming job. I thank her and her family for opening the doors to my career. The Kelly gig felt like it happened overnight. I had a voice message from someone (late one night) asking me to audition for her the very next day. I rushed out to whatever store was still open and bought a copy of her single, “Papa Don’t Preach.” I stayed up all night learning the song, went to the audition straight after work. It was all a blur, really. The day after auditioning, I got call to meet with Kelly and Sharon, played with her band a bit, and I was handed a schedule for the next 3 months…the rest is history. I played with Kelly from 2002 to 2005 and then again this year (2009).
If you could switch lives with anyone in the world living or dead who would that be and why?
I actually wouldn’t want to. I’m comfortable with me. You don’t know what other people are really going through, all we know is what we think we know about them. We don’t know about their lives and struggles.
You talk about using bigger drums and more open tones, where did you develop a taste for that sound?
That definitely comes from my rock and metal background and being in love with the arena rock sound and visuals from an early age. I was also very influenced by the old Ludwig and Slingerland kits and seeing set-ups like those of John Bonham.
I taught myself on my uncle’s kit, which was a huge, 16-piece, stainless steel Ludwig. There were two 28” bass drums and the other sizes ranged from a 4” roto-tom to a 20 or 22” concert floor tom. I guess that helped in developing a taste for “that sound.”
Take us through your set up. How do you achieve the sound you get?
The gear that helps me get that sound I love… Ludwig, Aquarian, Sabian, Vic Firth and Djembes by dabeat, a small company from Denmark. My current set up is a 5-piece, maple, Ludwig kit. 16×24” Kick, 10×12 Tom, 16×16 Floor, 18×18 Floor and ever-changing snare drums. I’m using Sabian APX series: Two 20” Crashes, 22” Ride, 14” Hats and an 18” Ozone. Aquarian has an amazing new coated snare head called Hi-Velocity. I use that on a couple of snares, as well as their Texture Coated snare heads, Response 2’s for the toms and SuperKick bass drum head.
You had an interesting adolescence. Tell me about the years when you were in Fudgegun.
Fudgegun, wow. That consisted (mainly) of myself, a lady named Marty Novak and a guy named Ken Sirignano, who was a very cool guitar player. We toured so much and often in poor conditions. We were a young, very driven, very hard-working, post-punk trio. I was involved on two recordings with Fudgegun: “If You Could See My Office…” and “Behind Closed Doors.” We did what we had to, in order to get our music out there (independently), booked our own tours, did our own promo and spent a lot of time together in a van. On the flipside, so much time spent in a van with two other people can wear on those involved.
What has being on tour taught you in later life?
It has taught me to be independent, self-sufficient, mindful and respectful of others (laughs). Touring is the best! Especially, when you start touring at a young age. For someone like me, coming from a small town like Saginaw, MI, touring opened up my mind to so many different things in life. It showed me that there was much more to life than playing in bars, getting wrapped up in bad situations and being an angry teen in Saginaw. I had the opportunity to travel to 44 states and 2 countries by the time I was 18. Some people never get to experience that.
Since the 80s metal has increasingly become a more accepted and popular genre. What do you feel the contributing factors are to the rise of metal?
I’m not sure. I just embrace and don’t question it.
Sean Mitchell is a drummer/artist, songwriter and the creator of Drum Geek.